09/20/05 — Moore found guilty

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Moore found guilty

By Jack Stephens
Published in News on September 20, 2005 1:49 PM

Marcus Dominique Moore was convicted Monday night of second-degree murder and sentenced to 18-23 years in prison for last year's fatal shooting of a Goldsboro man.

A Wayne County Superior Court jury of nine women and three men deliberated for an hour and 47 minutes after hearing final arguments and the judge's instructions on the law.

Moore was found guilty of the killing of 31-year-old Jonathan Deon Yarborough on April 16, 2004, in front of the defendant's home at 511 Denmark St. Police said the shooting followed an argument over drugs.

The jury got the case at 4:58 p.m. Monday after hour-long closing arguments by the state and the defense. Twice during their deliberations, the jurors asked to review evidence. They asked to hear the 911 tape again and to see copies of statements and photographs.

Judge Jay D. Hockenbury of Wilmington sentenced the 26-year-old Moore to 220-273 months for second-degree murder, defined as a malicious killing without premeditation and deliberation.

Defense lawyer Geoff Hulse of Goldsboro had claimed that Moore acted in self-defense during a fight with the victim.

"He says he fired the gun because he was worried the other guy was going to get him," Hulse said in his closing argument.

But the jury foreman said later that there "was not enough evidence" to support self-defense, although another juror said that "it was an arguable point."

Assistant District Attorney Matt Delbridge argued that the murder was premeditated.

"When he fired a bullet through the man's heart, it was a premeditated and deliberate act," Delbridge told the jury.

Hulse suggested that Moore be sentenced at the lower end of the punishment scale, 132-176 months. He noted that the defendant was responsible for the support of his family and also had a history of alcohol abuse.

The jury could have convicted Moore of first-degree murder, either by premeditation and deliberation or by the first-degree felony murder rule, defined as a murder committed during the commission of another felony crime.

Delbridge had claimed that the evidence showed that the shooting occurred during an attempted cocaine sale in Moore's front yard. He said people had come to the house several times to buy drugs. But none of the jurors said they accepted the theory of the felony murder rule.

Moore was not on trial for his life. If he were convicted of first-degree murder, he would have been sentenced to life in prison.

After the verdict, when the judge gave Moore the chance to speak several times, the defendant declined.

"Your lawyer did a real good job for you, because you're not spending the rest of your life in prison," Hockenbury told the defendant.

Moore was immediately taken to Central Prison in Raleigh.

"Both attorneys did a real good job," the jury foreman said. "It was a hard decision for us. I think they did an excellent job. ... We did our best."

"It was an emotional experience," said another juror.

The jury also could have convicted Moore of voluntary manslaughter, a murder committed during the heat of passion, or involuntary manslaughter, a reckless act not committed in the heat of passion.

Delbridge opened his closing argument by saying how rare it was for two witnesses to see a homicide. A neighbor, Shalita Hopson, testified that she heard the first shot, then saw the second and called 911. Her voice was on the 911 tape. The last witness, Kwamisha Kornegay, who was arrested after refusing to come to court, testified that she saw the first shot from outside of the home, then ran away but heard the second shot.

"There's no dispute whose gun it was and there's no dispute on who pulled the trigger," the prosecutor said.

Delbridge discounted Hulse's argument that Moore's statement to police after the shooting and his testimony last week were similar.

"The defendant has a motivation not to be truthful," the assistant D.A. said.

Delbridge noted that Moore fled to his girlfriend's home and later threw the gun away under his mother's bed.

Hulse argued that the option of the first-degree felony murder rule was added as a possible verdict because the state's case "was not looking too good." He called it "a last-ditch effort by the state" to get a conviction.

Hulse said Ms. Kornegay's testimony that Yarborough was shot in the neck or shoulder was not backed up by the testimony of the state's chief medical examiner. Dr. John Butts said the victim was shot in the back and in the chest.

The lawyer also contended that Ms. Hopson's recollection of the distance between her window and the Moore house was not the 10 or 12 feet that she had said it was in the courtroom but 95 feet, a distance that the police measured.

"Marcus Moore's testimony is just as reliable as either of those witnesses," Hulse argued.

The jury did not accept the argument. The panel's quick verdict surprised the courtroom audience and the judge who had planned to recess court at 7 p.m. and return today.